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9/11 and the Degradation of Liberty and Conscience

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bagramby Jacob G. Hornberger

Statists love to say that 9/11 changed the world. Actually, it didn’t change anything insofar as the federal government is concerned. It continued doing the same things it was doing prior to 9/11 and even expanded them. 9/11 did change our country though, especially with respect to the degradation of liberty and conscience.

Prior to 9/11 and especially after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, when the U.S. national-security state lost its big official enemy, the U.S. Empire went into the Middle East in search of targets of interventionist opportunities. These included: (1) the Persian Gulf intervention; (2) The intentional destruction of Iraq’s water-and-sewage treatment plants with the intent of spreading infectious illnesses among the Iraqi people; (3) the brutal sanctions that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children; (4) the intentional stationing of U.S. troops near Islamic holy lands; (5) the deadly no-fly zones over Iraq; (6) the financial and military support provided Middle East dictatorships; and (7) the unconditional military and financial aid provided the Israeli government.

Not surprisingly — and as Chalmers Johnson, FFF writers, and others predicted — those interventionist activities succeeded in generating the rage that led to terrorist retaliation, including (1) the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center; (2) the terrorist attack on the USS Cole; (3) the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and, of course, (4) the 9/11 attacks.

So, what did the U.S. government do after 9/11? It simply engaged in more of the same interventionist activity that it was doing prior to 9/11.

First, it invaded Afghanistan and effected regime change there by ousting the Afghan government and installing a crooked, corrupt, fraudulent, brutal dictatorial regime that would do the bidding of the U.S. Empire.

Second, it invaded Iraq for the purpose of effecting the regime change there that the 11 years of deadly sanctions had failed to accomplish.

Third, it instituted a program of torture, assassination, indefinite detention, abuse, and humiliation of people from the Middle East.

Fourth, it embarked on a spending and borrowing spree that now threatens the government with bankruptcy. ?What changed was the nature of freedom in America. The U.S. government used the attacks to assume the same types of emergency powers that U.S.-supported dictators in the Middle East had been exercising for decades against their own people.

The military power to seize Americans and incarcerate, torture, and detain them indefinitely as “enemy combatants” in the war on terrorism. The power to spy on and monitor people’s email and telephone calls. The power to search people’s homes and financial institutions in secret. The power to grope people’s private parts at airports, including those of children. The Patriot Act. Guantanamo Bay. Kangaroo tribunals. Denial of due process.

The worst part of all this was that the statists and neo-cons sold it as “freedom.” The more the government clamped down, the freer Americans were considered to be. In fact, the most ominous part of the last 10 years is that many of the statists honestly believe that Americans are free precisely because the government is wielding these emergency powers.

Of course, that’s not surprising given the fact that such statists honestly believe that the Iraqi people and the Afghan people are now free, thanks to the U.S. invasions and occupations of their countries. In both nations, the regimes are crooked, corrupt, fraudulent ones that exercise total dictatorial powers over their citizenry. With the assistance of the U.S. military and the CIA, they arrest people arbitrarily, they detain them indefinitely without trial, they raid their homes and search their persons and belongings, and they torture them. And U.S. statists honestly believe that this is all freedom — that the troops have brought freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan.

And so you have the bizarre spectacle of statists exclaiming, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free” or “Thank the troops for defending our freedom here at home,” notwithstanding the fact that the U.S. government now wields the same emergency powers as the U.S.-supported dictatorships in the Middle East.

Perhaps worst of all has been the denigration of conscience within the American people. Consider, for example, torture. Whenever the subject arises, so many people react nonchalantly or, even worse, actually defend it.

That’s astonishing to me. I was raised with the notion that people like the Nazis, the communists, the barbarians tortured people. I’ve been in a torture museum in Europe, and I was absolutely shocked at what I saw. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that my own government would become the world’s biggest torturer and that there would actually be people supporting it.

Where’s the shock, the outrage, the moral indignation among the people of a nation that prides itself on Judeo-Christian values?

It’s the same with U.S. support of dictatorships and the U.S. government’s torture partnerships with dictatorships, partnerships in which the U.S. government delivers a person it has kidnapped into the clutches of the dictatorships for torture. It’s all now accepted as a normal way of life.

To me, that is so utterly bizarre.

It’s no different with America’s assassination program. Did you ever think that our government would implement the biggest assassination program in history? Did you ever think you’d see the day when our government was roaming the world assassinating people without even providing them a trial to determine guilt?

The degradation of conscience is also reflected in the so-called humanitarian interventions. All too many Americans place no value on the lives of foreigners. We’ve seen this in Iraq and Libya. The statists say, these interventions have been worth it because we’ve ousted a tyrant from power.

But they never mention the price — the dead people who they killed in the process of ousting the dictator. You see, it’s never just ousting the dictator — it’s killing countless people in the process of ousting the dictator. Statists say, the deaths of those people are worth it. It’s the same mindset that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright had when “Sixty Minutes” asked her if the deaths of half-a-million Iraqi children from the sanctions were worth it. She responded that yes, they were “worth it.”

How cavalier. How gentlemanly. How ladylike. To be willing to sacrifice any number of foreigners for the sake of regime change. The irony is that if you asked any American statist whether he’d be willing to sacrifice his parents, spouse, or children for the sake of regime change in Iraq or Libya, he’d say, “Are you crazy? My family’s lives are more valuable than that.” But he doesn’t feel the same about the lives of Iraqis or Libyans. There was never an upward limit on the number of their lives that could be sacrificed for the greater good of regime change. Any number of deaths of Iraqis and Libyans was considered “worth it.”

That’s what 9/11 did to freedom and conscience in America. In the insatiable quest to be kept safe — safe from the dangers that the U.S. government itself has produced with its interventionist policies — the American people have paid an enormous price — in treasure, freedom, and conscience.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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